Following the fall of ISIS in 2017, YPT conducted our first ever research tour to Baghdad and beyond in April 2018 and followed up with our first regular tour. It proved to be not only very safe but incredibly informative & fascinating. The area is spoilt with world-class heritage and is completely unspoilt by tourism meaning we will feel like the only foreign travellers in town. This is now quickly turning into a YPT signature tour and certainly one of our most interesting ones.
There is a huge amount of ancient and modern history waiting to be explored in Iraq. We’ll travel from Baghdad north along the former death highway to Samara and back again to Najaf, Karbala, the Mesopotamian marshlands and onto Basra before boarding the only train in the country back to Baghdad. We cover a huge amount of ground with our expert local guide explaining all as we go. We’ll be walking on the street and meeting people who are extremely eager to meet foreigners after their country was off limit for years! Prepare for all your preconceived ideas to be challenge but also to have a lot of fun!
This year is our busiest ever for the Middle East, with tours to Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and more on the way!
Due to visa-related, security and logistical reasons, this tour is capped at 14 people and bookings will end two months before the tour so that letter of invitation for the visa can be processed! Don’t be left out! Book now!
For a tour of this nature, security is the most important factor and the itinerary is subject to change depending on the situation on the ground and the information we receive from our local partners. The local guide and YPT guide’s decision on eventual itinerary changes is final and taken with your safety in mind.
We meet in Istanbul Airport as we will need to fly together and arrive in Baghdad together for visa procedures. Our flight time will be confirmed two months before the tour.
Arrival in Baghdad and meet up with our local guide and fixer who will give an introduction on travelling in Iraq and a breakdown of the itinerary for our stay
See the Liberation Square monument, which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of Iraq.
Drive by the victory over America Palace and see the square where Saddam’s statue was toppled in 2003.
And of course, Baghdad can’t be complete with a visit to the Flying Carpet Monument, Alibi Baba and the 40 thieves’ monument and the Magic Lamp monument. All on the drive in from the airport to our hotel and restaurant
Overnight in the high security“Baghdad Hotel”. Complete with swimming pool, gym and bar!
Wednesday April 15th – Baghdad
It’s a Baghdad city tour day and we kick things off with a visit to the National Museum.
Visit the incredible and well renovated Al – Mustansariya School. This is commonly known as the oldest school in the world.
Walk through the adjoining copper market. A wonderful place for souvenirs and photography
We drive an hour outside of the city to the ancient city of Ctesiphone. These days all that’s left is the palace archway which is the largest single span vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world
Back to Baghdad for a feast and overnight.
Thursday April 16th – Karbala
Up early for the drive north to Samarra. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route driving by many villages recently destroyed during fighting against ISIS.
Samarra is famous for its Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samarra). We will climb the spiralling staircase all l the way to the top for the 360 degree view. Not for the faint hearted!
Drive back to Baghdad and head straight to Abu Ghraib. No not the prison which is long gone but it’s abandoned and ancient site of Agargouf Ziggurat.
Continue on south to Iraq’s holiest city of Karbala
Dinner and overnight in Karbala
Friday April 17th – Najaf
Up early for some Karbala sightseeing taking in the must-see Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine. Today’s a great day to visit as it is the wednesday procession. You can expect a lot of followers marching around the sites!
Drive to Babylon, once the largest and most important city in the world. We tour the ancient ruins with our local expert and see what’s left of the hanging gardens.
Saddam Hussain Palace – Perched right on top of Babylon, the dictator made sure he had the best view of the site. We spend some time exploring the looted remains of one of his many former palaces.
We drive to Najaf, the third holiest city in Shia Islam.
After dinner, those who still have it in them after a full day on the road can visit the most important site of Najaf – the Imam Ali shrine for the late night ceremony.
Overnight in Najaf
Saturday April 18th – Basra
We wake up early for a walking tour of Najaf, including Imam Ali’s house (the very spot where imam Ali was killed) and the Kufa Mosque.
Drive south to the Mesopotamian Marshes. We’ll take a bout trip through the maze of marshes stopping by local villages for tea. The marshes once engulfed a whole swathe of Southern Iraq with numerous floating villages. Today the receding waters have led most families to change their livelihood but we’ll still see the few that remain.
Visit the Adam and Eve tree AKA the tree of knowledge in the village of Qurna. Legend has it that Eve ate the apple from this very tree in the Garden of Eden.
Drive onto Iraq’s southernmost city of Basra
Dinner and overnight in Basra
Sunday April 19th – Basra
We’ll visit the Ashar and Shanashil Al Basra area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra: old style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
We take a cruise across the Shatt Al Arab river and see some shipwrecks from the Iran-Iraq War from the 80s.
Just like most places in Iraq, Saddam Hussain also built a grand palace in Basra. And of course we’ll visit it.
Iraq’s biggest football stadium is in Basra. Iraqi’s love their football and are even more proud of the 60,000 seater Basra sports city stadium!
If you’re a train fanatic then this one is for you; we’ll take the only active railroad in Iraq; the night train from Basra to Baghdad. It is not possible to make a reservation before the ride but we will do our best to score some sleepers!
Monday April 20th – Baghdad
Early arrival into Baghdad train station. The station itself a real highlight so we’ll take some time to get some breakfast and take photos here.
Visit the incredible Suffi shrine, a welcome escape from the city’s hustle and bustle
The Al Shaheed Monument is the martyr’s memorial spot for people who died during the Iran-Iraq War. These days it’s a highly controversial monument, as it was originally built during the Saddam era.
It is already time to say farewell!
End of tour for those not carrying on to Iraqi Kurdistan with two or three airport drop-offs organised according to flight details of the group members (we need to take into account the very long time it takes to go to the airport and get through all checkpoints).
– Visa support
– Accommodation on twin sharing basis
– A/C transport to complete itinerary
– Flights to complete itinerary
– English speaking local guide and YPT guide
– Entrance Fees unless otherwise specified